SHARE

Michigan U.S. Senate can­didate Pete Hoekstra is down in the polls – in some cases by a lot. Two-term incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow com­manded a 13 point lead in a poll con­ducted by The Detroit News Oct. 27 to 29.

Hoekstra visited campus Oct. 26 for a town hall meeting at the Dow Lead­ership Center.  Talking with The Col­legian before the meeting, he acknowl­edged his cam­paign is behind, noting the dif­fi­culty in defeating an incumbent senator.

“Beating a 12-year incumbent is hard, so what you do is you begin with a plan and the plan says we’re going to peak on election day,” Hoekstra said. “That may be the only day we’re ahead and that’s the plan that we’re exe­cuting.

“I think we’re pretty much on plan.”

Born in the Nether­lands, Hoekstra’s family immi­grated to the United States when he was three-years old. He grad­uated from Hope College in 1975 with a B.A. in political science and went on to the Uni­veristy of Michigan, where he earned an MBA. After leaving academia, he found employment at Herman Miller, Inc., a major fur­niture man­u­fac­turer in Zeeland, Mich. Over the next 15 years, Hoekstra would work his way up to Vice Pres­ident of Mar­keting.

Hoekstra entered pol­itics in 1992 when he decided to chal­lenge Guy Vander Jagt, a con­gressman of 26 years, for Michigan’s 2nd Dis­trict U.S. House seat. He defeated Vander Jagt by six points in the GOP primary and held the seat for the next 18 years.

Hoekstra said he entered pol­itics for four reason: he thought D.C. wasn’t doing things right, that the incumbent was part of the problem, that he himself could be part of the solution, and that he could defeat the incumbent in an election.

“Those four things are almost exactly the same four things as right now,” he said. “I think the direction in D.C. is awful, and I clearly believe Debbie Stabenow

is part of the problem.”

He left the House in 2009 to run for gov­ernor of Michigan. Rick Snyder won and Hoekstra fin­ished second.

An advocate for school choice, Hoekstra joined The Her­itage Foun­dation in 2011 as a dis­tin­guished fellow, con­cen­trating on edu­cation reform in par­ticular. Hoekstra was 1 of 20 Repub­licans to vote against No Child Left Behind and a decade later is still critical of George W. Bush’s edu­cation reform leg­is­lation.

“Bottom Line: it was a huge expansion of the federal gov­ernment into K to 12 edu­cation,” Hoekstra said. “I thought it was ter­rible policy.”

He said he believes parents should have more control over their kids’ edu­cation.

“Whether its edu­cation tax credits, whether its vouchers or whatever,” he said. “Basi­cally, we need to empower parents to move their kids to whatever school they believe will give them a quality edu­cation.”

For addi­tional policy posi­tions, Hoekstra held a 100 percent rating by the National Right to Life Com­mittee during his last term in the House, holds a 92 percent by the National Rifle Asso­ci­ation in his current race, and is a strong advocate for tax reform.

While acknowl­edging no tax system could be perfect (“When you got the gov­ernment digging into your pockets, you’re not going to find a system that is fair to everyone involved.”), he said he would support a number of other tax reforms – including Herman Cain’s 9 – 9-9 plan – over the current system.

Although down in the polls, Hoekstra said his cam­paign has gotten some breaks lately. He said pres­i­dential can­didate Mitt Romney’s recent surge has been ben­e­ficial to his cam­paign – both in voter support and cam­paign dona­tions.

“This is crunch time,” Hoekstra said. “We basi­cally go from now until 8 p.m. on Nov. 6 and you don’t take a break.

“This is where you put it all out and that’s what we’re doing.”